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Saturday, May 31, 2008

I UNDERSTAND THE ROMANCE OF TRAIN TRAVEL

I can’t get the mythic magic of train travel off my mind. I can imagine myself back on Amtrak’s Auto Train leaving the station and heading toward Florida. It’s an intense sensation as dusk settles on Virginia countryside. There’s a rhythmic pattern to the sound of the train and an occasional shuffle of the car. Outside, beyond the trees or the railside buildings there’s a vivid pink streak in the sky. The sun is setting. The world is moving to another phase, and we are moving too—to another phase or a new adventure. It is certain that before we are fully awake in the morning, the sun will rise and light up whatever unnamed occurrences await us.

By a little after 6 PM, I look through the train window and see, in straight sight, my own reflection, my table, my book. Sometimes the reflection is morphed by a light from a front or back porch of a home near the tracks or by a series of street lights lining an unknown street in an unseen town.

If I raise my eyes, I see the blackened outlines of still leafless tree limbs and beyond that light puffs of clouds against the sky. It is vaguely frightening, and I am glad to be cocooned in my dimly lighted car.

By 6:40 it is pitch black outside. We’ve moved south and into more rural areas. Lights are almost non-existent. I feel as if I’m an interloper in a thoroughly dark, lightless world. I am unable to pierce the darkness, and I travel untroubled through its quiet peace

I actually sleep although it is barely nighttime. The dense blackness, the rhythmic rumble, the dim interior lighting and the enveloping sense of peace is a tonic for whatever ails me.

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